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Web Content Sites Are Not Created Equal February 8, 2011

Posted by Peter Varhol in Publishing.

When I was a youth, I read through several of the encyclopedias in my old steel town’s Carnegie Public Library, multiple volumes, in order (you can go ahead and snicker; I won’t mind).  It may have been the result of poor social skills (guilty), or because I grew up on the rural Appalachian plateau, where there wasn’t a whole lot else to do.

Circa 1993, I did a review of Microsoft Encarta, one of the first CD-based encyclopedias.  I marveled at the ability to jump from one topic to another, based on a combination of hyperlinks, interests, and intuition.

Since then, the Web has expanded such connectivity into infinity.  But even on the Web, not all locations are created equally.

Economics blogger Felix Salmon did a comparison between a New York Times blog page and a Huffington Post blog page covering the same topic, noting that the HuffPo page had an order of magnitude more comments, likes, and tweets.   He concluded that the HuffPo page provided more information, and was more interactive, than comparable content on the Times page.  He did note that the HuffPo content was effectively a re-blog of the Times story.  This is both a credit (original reporting) and a condemnation (they couldn’t attract the readership or at least reader interaction that HuffPo did).

But it very much points to the fact that original reporting can only get you so far.  As we said back in the days when I studied science, it is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition (on the Web, it may not even prove to be necessary, but that’s another story entirely).

Human beings are associative creatures. We catch things out of the corners of our eye, or because something we hear jogs a dim and peripherally related memory. It enables our lives to be rich and creative, and at the most basic level is a survival trait.

This characteristic makes the serial approach to content consumption a historical anomaly. While I don’t particularly care for the design of the HuffPo page, I bet no two people navigate from the page in the same way. This is how our minds work.

The Web is a good start in that direction.  But if we approach Web content design from the standpoint of the printed page, or from page views, or from SEO, we’re probably going to get it wrong.



1. Web Content Sites Are Not Created Equal - February 9, 2011

[…] ahead and snicker; I won't mind). It may have been the result of poor social skills (guilty), or… [full post] Peter Varhol Cutting Edge Computing publishing 0 0 0 0 […]

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